The Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, based at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law, presents an event together with the Special Rapporteur on Racism about her recent report to the UN Human Rights Council on racial discrimination and emerging digital technologies. This event and report come at a moment of international crises, including a global wave of protests and human rights activism against police brutality and systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd and a pandemic which, among many other tragic impacts, has laid bare how deeply embedded inequality, racism, xenophobia and intolerance are in our societies.

The Special Rapporteur will briefly introduce the main observations in her report, which deals with the impact of emerging digital technologies used by private and public actors on a range of internationally protected human rights, from the rights to privacy and freedom of expression to the rights to social protection, education, and healthcare. The other speakers will then engage in a conversation with the Special Rapporteur from their different perspectives and backgrounds, focusing on the relevance of international human rights law and its accountability mechanisms for the debate on structural racism and technology. This will be followed by a Q & A session with the audience. What can the human rights movement do to force states and Big Tech to take techno-racism and their related human rights obligations seriously? What are the main blind spots in this debate, especially those that relate to the role of new technologies in the formation of a digital state and the importance of economic and social rights? Can the human rights movement leverage the attention new technologies receive from the public, policymakers and media to expose pre-existing racism and discrimination in relation to access to social benefits, health care, education, water, basic infrastructure, and other economic and social entitlements?


  • Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and Professor of Law at UCLA
  • Nanjala Nyabola, Author of Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Kenya
  • Mutale Nkonde, CEO of AI For the People, Non-Resident Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
  • Christiaan van Veen, Director of the Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law

About the Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project

Systems of social protection and assistance in countries around the world are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies. The digital welfare state represents a revolution in the administration of benefits and social assistance systems in countries across the globe. Despite the many ramifications of this development, the phenomenon remains under explored. The Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project looks specifically into the relationship between the roll-out of digital welfare states and the protection of human rights norms.


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